“They have silver in their hair, gold in their heart… and magic in their hands.”
Or at least in my grandmother’s hands. This is not just because every dish she prepared made my taste buds go ‘this is nirvana!’ or even the simplest tea she brewed was so much better than any I ever had so far. It was because her hands worked magic on my hair. Every afternoon when I came home from school, I would get over with my ablutions, and before mother could place my bowl of rice in front of me, I was off to see grandma in her room, where she sat caressing her tresses with oil. My grandma had luscious, beautiful, wondrous, jet-black hair. She loved to tell me her story of her Rapunzel-like long hair and how when granddad’s parents came to see her, the first thing that amazed them about her was her hair. They asked not one question after that. And just like that, their marriage was settled.
“They liked your hair so much that they wedded their son to you?” I had asked incredulously.
“Absolutely!” Grandma had answered with that beautiful laugh of hers and the familiar twinkle of her eyes. “In those days, one’s hair was one’s pride.”
“It still is.” I had said. “But hardly anyone has the kind of black hair that you do.”
But it was evident why that was the case. Grandma oiled her hair daily, not missing even a single day. And that is what she had done to me as well. Every afternoon, I would sit in front of her, my arms around my knees and my mane spread out. Grandma would then run her old veined hands over my hair. First slowly, and then with a little emphasis to ensure that every strand of my hair got the massage and nutrition it needed. She took care of her hair like a plant, watering (oiling) it, and helping it grow by nurturing it carefully. No wonder I too had long, black and shiny hair. Not just because of my genes, but because Grandma had put so much effort into caring for my hair.
She always insisted on coconut oil. She said it was the best oil for one’s hair.
“What if my hair is oily or say, dry and flaky? Isn’t there supposed to be different types of oil for different types of hair?” I would ask when I entered adolescence and saw my peers doing all kinds of things to their hair and feeling just a little bit left out.
“Coconut oil is the best.” She would say with a finality that no one could contest. Parachute was her constant. And consequently, our staple.
“Come on everyone! Be seated quickly!” I ordered.
Mom, dad, grandpa, my little brother, uncle, aunty and their two daughters were all seated as per my instructions. We were going to witness something today.
“What is it? Will you tell us?” everyone was asking.
“Just wait and watch.” I said and switched on the video.
On came all the snaps that we had taken at different times in our life – right from when we were tiny tots to weddings, birthdays, celebrations, occasions all the way to our current year. There were also photos from times much before we were born.
“Who is that?” My cousin exclaimed at a black and white photograph of a beautiful woman with long black hair that reached her knees.
“That is your grandmother, kid.” Grandpa said fondly, a tear escaping his eye. “This was the picture I had taken of her when we got married.”
Everyone gasped in surprise.
“How did you arrange these pictures? They look ancient! And so beautiful.” Mom lauded my efforts, making me blush.
“This picture relived all those moments again.” Grandpa said a little sadly.
It had been three years since Grandma had left for her heavenly abode. I still remember how we used to celebrate Grandparents’ Day when Grandma was alive, with all due ceremony, cake and music and good food…
But ever since grandma’s demise, this had seen a cessation. There was no more celebration, no more cakes, no more laughter, no more good times on this wonderful day.
But this time, I was determined to celebrate Grandparents’ day. Because I am sure that’s what grandma would have wanted. Because she would have liked to see us together and happy. Because it was simply the time to #LoveJatao.
So, I had done all I could to gather our fondest memories and to relive all our cherished times.
I rushed to the kitchen and brought out a tray. In memory of Grandma, I had arranged a cake, with ‘To our favorite Rapunzel and her Prince’ etched on it in lovely pink icing.
Grandpa had tears in his eyes. As I fed him a piece, I’m sure I heard grandma’s beautiful laugh somewhere. She was still with us.
Happy Grandparents’ Day! Hope you cherish these moments with your grandparents forever!
#LoveJatao #ParachuteAdvansed #BlogAdda
I look forward to hear from you how would you celebrate Grandparents Day. Do share a selfie with your grandparents on Sept. 10, 2017 on Twitter or Facebook with #LoveJatao & tag @blogadda to win a goodie from Parachute Advansed.
I saw her sitting in the room, coiled up in a corner, while her mother wiped the floor of our house. I was too hungry so I rushed to the kitchen, got myself some garlic bread with jam and was about to get back into my room when I stopped.
She was a little girl, barely nine years old. She must be hungry too. Thinking so, I got her a plate full of bread slices with jam smeared on them. “Have it,” I pushed the plate in front of her. She got up immediately, sprang to full attention and stared at me like she had never seen me before.
“Don’t you like bread?” I asked her to which she nodded, took the plate from me and began eating. It made me really happy for some reason to see her eat.
After that day, I met her again two weeks later when her mother brought her to our place once more. “Sit,” she instructed her daughter, who crossed her legs and sat down on the floor, staring at the wall as if it was the most interesting television show possible. But as soon as she saw me, her gaze locked on me as if I was now the most interesting phenomenon in her life.
I guessed she wanted something to eat like the last time, so I foraged around in the kitchen and arranged some stuff for her. She looked at me intently and then began to gulp down everything on the plate. What a sweet hungry girl.
“Taaanku.” She said to me.
“Thank you, you mean?” I asked her.
She stared at me as if I was speaking in an altogether different language, which I now realize I must be.
“Do you go to school?”
She shook her head. I frowned. How come her mother hasn’t enrolled her yet? She is young surely, but old enough to be in a school.
But there was no point in asking her why she hadn’t been put in a school.
“Do you know how to read?” I asked her.
She nodded vigorously. I was kind of surprised. I supposed she was being homeschooled.
Just then, she picked up a newspaper lying nearby and raised it high in front of her. She then began to speak. And speak gibberish she did. She pretended she was reading the newspaper. She went on for about five minutes without stopping. She spoke nothing of any sense whatsoever. I couldn’t help but crack up. She looked so adorable, so sweet and yet so stupid. But what caused me astonishment was her confidence. She was speaking like she was spouting some high-profile news items, probably replicating people she had seen around her.
And then it struck me. What was that advert I had seen regarding Nihar Shanti Amla Oil? I dialed 8055667788 and took the phone to her. It was Nihar Shanti Amla’s new concept – Pathshala Funwala. As soon as she got hold of the phone, her attention was completely diverted. It was as if I didn’t exist. After about three minutes, she handed me the phone urgently, pointing to the buttons. I put the phone to my ear and realized that the voice was asking for an option to continue the English lessons.
From that day onwards, whenever she came to our house, I would call up 8055667788 from our landline. When the English tutorial by Shanti Amla called back, I would give her the receiver. She would then spend hours listening to the lessons.
One day I saw her on the street, walking with her mother. I had gone to the market for groceries.
“Hi didi! How are you?” began a chirpy voice.
I turned, saw her mom as taken aback by her words as I was. I stopped anyway and greeted her with a smile.
“Do you go to school now?”
I had talked to mother regarding her schooling and it came out that they were not planning to send her to an educational institution but after we coaxed her mom to do so by offering to pay for her school fee, she had started going to school.
As they say “If you change nothing, then nothing will change”.
The sweet girl nodded.
“She is the best in English in her class, her teacher told us that day. All thanks to you, bitiya.” Her mother said to me, overwhelmed with joy.
I waived away the thanks.
“She really loves the fact that they call her Shanti Didi now!” exclaimed her mother happily.
Then it struck me. Her mother’s name was Amla and hers Shanti. Talk about coincidences!
“I am blogging about Pathshala Funwala by Nihar Shanti Amla Oil in association with BlogAdda”
My granny is a typical Indian grandmother. Refusing to go for anything apart from what she has been used to since the beginning of time.
“It’s not possible. I have too much work.”
I could have laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement. Work? Really? She would give that lame an excuse?
“And pray tell me what may that be?” I turned to look at her, my face all smiles.
She gave me a stern look and said, “You have no idea how much work a home requires. You won’t understand. You are way out of it all now. Always outside for work and studies. You won’t understand. “
“At least tell me, no? I will try to understand.”
I was so looking forward to this conversation. It was going to be so much fun.
“Please, please, please. Pleaseeeeeeeeee…” I began ranting the way I used to when I was a kid and wanted some particularly stomach-upsetting delicacy.
“Well, it’s not rocket science. The house requires maintenance. The daily puja, cleaning, washing, cooking… “
“Which is all done by the respective maidservants.” I cut in. “But go on.”
She glared at me.
“You leave them women alone and they will flutter about, sit all day in front of the television and do nothing. They are the biggest shirkers possible. They-“
“Okay okay! I totally agree. But nothing will happen if we seal the house and go for one month. No need for cleaning. You will be free from any responsibility. At least for some time.”
Granny clearly wasn’t convinced. “Listen. I will tell you what to do.” She began. “You go to Germany. Do that cun-convection-whatever thing and come back and then we will go to Sagar Ratna and have a huge party.”
It was all I could do not to burst into laughter. Only granny could place a meal in Sagar Ratna over a Europe trip.
I knew this would be both entertaining and exasperating. But I had only so much time. I had to get my point across.
“Convocation, granny. It is my convocation. And you know how much I want you to be a part of it. I won’t accept any of your reasons. You must come. You have to come. I assure you, you will love it. I will be wearing the graduation robe and the special square graduation cap. Don’t you want to see me awarded? In front of so many students and teachers and their parents and well-wishers? Please please please don’t say no. I have been planning this for ages. And didn’t you say you wish I hadn’t gone to Germany alone? Now I’m taking you. I wouldn’t be alone anymore.”
Granny’s face was working furiously. I knew in her heart of hearts, she wanted to be there. But she just didn’t want to leave the country where our family had lived and perished. She saw herself as a custodian of that legacy. And she wouldn’t give it up. At any cost.
“You know I would love to. But seriously I can’t leave everything and just go. It doesn’t work that way. And you are talking about this chilly country. The temperatures go negative. You yourself said that. How will I manage?!”
“Oh granny granny granny! It will be spring this time of the year. It won’t be cold. Winter is gone. And summer will be here soon. There will be flowers and sunshine and sparkling lakes. It is all very pleasant indeed. You will love it. “
“But beta… I’m not used to the environment. I don’t even know the language. What will I do there? “
“But I will be there with you, all right? Just come. You won’t regret it. I promise.”
For a long time, she busied herself with putting things here and there. Cleaning the spotless vase. Wiping the photo frame and staring at the family photograph. Tilting the clock. Smoothing the cushions. In short, doing anything she possibly could in order to avoid answering me. There was no need for any such work but granny has a habit of fussing about things. It was not that difficult for her to come. But the real reason she didn’t want to go was –
“I don’t like the idea of living in a foreign country. This is my birth place. I want to live here. I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
I knew this was the actual reason. She just hated the idea of being in a ‘foreign’ setting. She was a woman who was born in the pre-independence era. Although by the time she grew up the tensions had ceased, she was still not very comfortable with the idea of settling in a different country.
I respect her choice. But I wanted her to witness my convocation and experience the joy and pride on having raised her granddaughter single-handedly into a winner. I had just finished my graduation and had come top of the class. And I wanted gran to witness this achievement and feel proud of her own efforts. I wanted to tell her how much her toil, struggles and sacrifices meant to me. Without a family and no one except granny to call my own, I had never imagined reaching where I had reached and achieving what I had achieved. To convince her to let me study abroad was a gargantuan task in itself, but she had agreed eventually and had extended whole-hearted support. It had been tough though to leave her here. All alone. But it was turning out to be tougher to take her abroad. But then I had to give it a try.
“I am not asking you to live there. We will come back next month. It is only a matter of a month. You will see me convocated and we will tour a few places in Europe. Germany. France. Eiffel Tower, remember? And Italy too.The Leaning Tower of Pisa! It really leans to a side, you know! And there are beautiful cathedrals and so much more that you would love to see. It will be a nice break. “
Granny’s eyes were shining. She was feeling proud already. But the doubts lingered inside her. “But…”
“Let the butts go into the ashtray. Here is your ticket. We are leaving next Friday.”
There went my master stroke. I had carefully chosen the date so she wouldn’t have any cause to protest. Only a stubborn unchangeable stance could help me win this battle of negotiation with grandma.
And so on a sunny Friday morning, I stowed our bags into the cab and waited for grandma to finish staring at the door of our flat.
“It’s locked. The lights and gas are off. The maids have been informed. The milkman and the newspaper guy have also been instructed. The neighbors have been told. It’s done, granny. Time to leave.”
“This is the first time I’m leaving the house for so long.” She said, staring wistfully at the boarded doors and windows.
“Oh heavens!” I sighed. “I should have taken you away ages ago!” Saying so, I ushered her into the cab.
As the cab zigzagged its way towards the airport, I felt light. Much lighter than I had ever felt on leaving India. Because most of the times, I felt guilt overriding me that perhaps I was selfish to leave granny all alone in that flat. But then I had my ambitions. And I know granny wanted the same for me. But no such feelings that day. I was feeling happier than ever. I couldn’t wait to take her to my university, and sightseeing across Marienplatz and Deutsche museum and maybe Lake Starnbeg where we could do some boating…
“I don’t much like these stuck-up air hostesses, acting all polite full of lofty words…”
There went granny and her complaints! We had barely gone through the security check when granny had come into her element. Oh well, it was just the beginning. I was expecting this.
“…and mannerisms like some robots or dolls. No genuine feeling-“
“Namaste!” A woman greeted us as we boarded the flight.
I almost choked with laughter when I saw the surprised expression on granny’s face. Despite herself, she smiled at the air hostess. Being an Indian, you can’t not smile or return the greeting when someone says ‘namaste’ to you. It’s kind of hard-wired into your being.
Thank you, Lufthansa. I chuckled to myself.
We stowed our handbags in the luggage area and sat. I made granny take the window seat.
“You will see Lotus Temple from above.” I pointed towards the window. That cheered her up considerably.
“2 Veg meals,” I answered the air hostess as she asked for our meal preference.
She smiled and went away.
Next time when she came, I was ready. Our tables were down and I had convinced granny that if she didn’t like the food, we could send it away and get something else instead.
“What else will they have? Apart from bread and cheese and wine?” she said aloud, rolling her eyes.
I blushed a little, hoping no one would think we are stereotyping Europeans.
“Here,” the woman came again and handed us our meals.
“Any drinks? Tea or coffee?”
“One tea, and one orange juice,” I told her.
She promptly handed out the drinks, gave us a winning smile and went on ahead.
If granny didn’t like the burger, I had decided that I would swap it for some instant noodles. One can’t go wrong with noodles, you know.
Before I had finished my thoughts, a delicious scent wafted up. To my utter surprise and delight, I saw granny uncover chapatti, rice with palak paneer and raajma. A tiny curd sat in the corner as well.
Wow. That was decidedly Indian. Since when though, I wondered.
“Indians have gone everywhere, haven’t they?”
Granny asked me while mixing the rice and curd together, once she was done with the other dishes.
“Was the food to your taste, granny?” I asked her after she had finished.
“Not bad,” she said, wiping her mouth neatly with the tissues.
“Well, shouldn’t be since the likes of Kunal Kapoor and Vinod Saini prepared today’s meal.”
I gleefully watched granny’s expression change to astonished admiration as I showed her the facts written in the airline magazine. I had often seen her hunt for Kunal Kapoor’s recipes on Youtube and watch similar cook shows on TV. She definitely held these culinary giants in high regard. After all, they were the pride of the food in Leela Palace. The best part was post this incident, granny was all praise. By the time we land, I was sure she will give her best smile to the flight attendants. Because, and I was so happy for it, she was really enjoying the entire experience.
Her fears of everything foreign had thankfully been hugely quelled, thanks to Lufthansa’s homely care. Later, as we laid back, granny watching a Bollywood flick on the entertainment TV with earphones plugged in, her expression all serious and her eyes earnest, I couldn’t help but feel proud that the airlines and perhaps the world was turning out to be more Indian than I thought.
Dreaming of the impending graduation ceremony and laying my head on granny’s shoulders as she flicked back and forth through the various things to watch, I dozed off contentedly. The flight had been a good start to our Europe trip. It was then that I decided to write something for Lufthansa Airlines. After all, the airlines managed to cheer my granny up! What could be a bigger achievement? As my eyes closed of their own accord, I started dreaming of all the places I would be showing to granny- all the beautiful mountains, lakes, palaces, museums, castles and cathedrals in Europe. Aah…that was a pleasing prospect. Germany, wir kommen!
Decide whether to rush to class sans breakfast or get late after having some breakfast. Because let’s face it, you are never going to have the best of both worlds. At least not I. Not in this life.
Once you miss breakfast, all sorts of cravings start sprouting within you. Although half your mind is on your rumbling empty tummy, it is still better to attend the class and procure some attendance, especially when it’s a strict prof you are dealing with.
Come the first break and you start piling on junk, starting with maggi, and moving on to eclairs, patties, hotdogs, mouth-watering samosas and what not. By lunchtime, you are full of stuff that hasn’t sated you and yet, you are hungry.
So, my first chhote kadam towards health was…yes, having breakfast.
Although it was a Herculean decision to part with sleep, a little tweaking, a little extra prep at night (setting my bag, clothes and doing all those things I used to dutifully do while in school), a little will power (which is strangely difficult to summon at such times) allowed me to somehow create a semblance of jentacular balance.
The second effort was not an effort for me at all. I don’t particularly like elevators, being a big fan of open spaces. So, choosing stairs over elevators came naturally to me.
The biggest challenge though was eating better. If there is something I can’t compromise on, it’s delectable mouth-watering junk food.
Patience. I discovered a little workaround. And it’s on the very lines of the above paragraph.
Eat at the mess. Even if the gravy seems full of water. Even if the chappati looks shapeless. Even if pizzas equate to heaven. Have the mess food. Choose health more often. Reduce a lot of eating out. I know it’s easier said than done. I haven’t been able to manage it either. I am not proud to admit that. But trying does count, right?
There is something though that I did manage. It was to have meals on time. You see, skipping is a sin. Skip rope, not your meals.
Now we come to the king of hearts. :drum roll: The Happiness Quotient. How much is yours?
You know people have ample stuff to say about happiness. They talk about it, discuss it and search for it everywhere. But happiness is not a shirt button that has rolled under the bed. This is something I remember reading a long time ago.
Happiness is really being okay with everything. Those tales of it being a state of being are actually true. You know the oil drops theory, right? Take care of the drops of oil while touring the mansion. To make it clear, just chill. Whatever happens, all is well. It will always be. Or at least that’s my mantra.
And if you wish to make your heart go on and on, just like that famous Titanic song, then you must must must find your own ways to revamp your lifestyle. If I can find these teeny tiny ways, you, my genius friend, can surely come up with better ideas and ways of being active, healthy and happy.
Dear heart, keep beating on…
~I am joining the Saffolalife #ChhoteKadam initiative in association with BlogAdda and follow these small steps for a healthy heart.~
Tap your right foot. Now your left. Right again. Left. Right. Left. Left. Left.
But I seemed to have only left feet. My first dance class was a lesson in coming out of my shell. My dance teacher was an unbelievably patient woman. But she had no idea how unbelievably shy I was. She started with the simplest steps. Easy footwork. Easier than march past, I would wager. And yet, every step seemed heavier than the last. A week went by and a month. I had started staying back after the regular dance class to wait for mom who would pick me up. Meanwhile, my dance teacher would tell me stories. Mythological tales, stories related to the dances we performed, and any other stories she may have told her kids when they were my age. That was the part I loved the most. I would later develop a mad obsession for stories and books. But right then, I liked to listen to her and think and imagine. Soon, she had started telling me a story related to every dance. You see, every dance we performed had some significance. They were mostly Krishna Radha tales or Meera Bai songs or old fables and the like. Once I had been inducted into the story, the song seemed to come naturally to me. Suddenly I was not so conscious of myself anymore. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I had lost sense of my body and knew not and cared not how I looked while I moved. I moved the way the song beckoned. My dear dance teacher had finally made a little dancer of me.
So, when she went away to settle in another city, I was sorely heartbroken. I knew then that no other teacher could ever teach me the way she did. No one would tell me stories or painstakingly position my arms to get the postures just right. I was on my own now.
But I didn’t want to give up on it just yet. While in secondary school, I joined another class. While making my way through the swampy waters of class X and XII, I left dance again. Then I got myself enrolled in engineering. And almost immediately after, got back to dance. After my regular college classes, I would attend the dance class for an hour and a half and then head home. The arrangement drained me of energy but enthused me with a mad passion. I achieved Visharad in Kathak dance form as I finished my graduation in computer engineering. Pretty coordinated that.
Although my introversion persists oxymoronically with my freewheeling dance fantasies, I have discovered a latent desire for classical dance in me. Something about the elegance of Indian classical dances enthralls me. I have never really gotten over my dance teacher’s stories or her graceful moves. The desire to emulate her and perform as gracefully and beautifully has remained and persisted.
Yes, that’s me.
The architecture of ancient buildings and the murals and paintings on old monuments make me wonder about the movements of the yesteryears. I am literally gravitated to the past. I feel the need to discover the most ancient dance forms of India. I wish to capture them as precisely and fully as I can. I want to visit the various gharaanas of Kathak, the temples of Bhartanatyam and the multifarious places in India where the classical dance forms originated. I wish to see the various forms in action. I want to bring to life the most antediluvian Indian dances possible and collate them in my blog.
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
Dance represents a zeitgeist, a revolution. Representing the spirit of the times, it takes one to an entirely different era where every movement mirrors an ideology of the society. Dance is expression and innovation combined. It is the largest and the most accurate mirror of one’s culture. Dance is love and life in action.
As Voltaire said, “Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
Manu could not help but see her. Nandita’s face was turned towards the class window, sunlight lighting up her brown hair giving it a golden sheen. He thought she looked beautiful. Since the day he had seen her at the debate, he had fallen for her hook, line and sinker. Soon, however, he realized she was already taken. As most girls are. A boulder-like something had descended to the place where his heart seemed to be.
He took his favorite second last bench in class and dumped his bag on the seat. There was about half an hour till the first class of the day. Manu flicked through the timetable. Math. Phew! Since he had landed in standard 9, he had barely seen any other subject save Math in the first period. Well, so be it…life was only going to get harder…
A muffled sob caught his attention. He looked towards Nandita, who had hurriedly got up, her face red as a beetroot and stumbled towards the door. Dismayed, he realized that she was crying.
“Hey…what-” Manu reached her before he could stop himself.
Nandita looked at him as if he had just read her personal diary. By the looks of it, he had. Her face was a diary of sorts.
“What happened? You all right?” Manu had never had truck with girls before, much less sobbing teenagers. And the stricken look on her red face (if it could get any redder) made him feel awfully sheepish.
“Here, take this.” He said, not knowing what else to say and offered her his handkerchief.
In the very next moment, he regretted it. Not because she refused or ran away- Manu later wished she had-but because he realized an instant too late that it was his white handkerchief, which was no longer white, but had motley patches of yellow, red and blue.
He hoped fervently that she would not see it while wiping her eyes, but that was wishful thinking. He wondered if he should take it back. But that would be bad manners, right? Defeated, he just stood there, hoping for the earth to swallow him as her tears splotched his already stained hanky.
“You have a funny hanky, you know,” she said in a thick just-cried voice. “So insanely large-” Yes, men’s hankies were always large. Hadn’t she ever seen her boyfriend’s hanky? By the by, where was her boyfriend? “-and so patched!”
Manu shifted uneasily, wondering what to say. But then, she giggled. He looked up uncertainly.
“Why is it so spotted and with such varied colors? Did you spill paint all over it?” She giggled all over again. Although it relieved him to hear her back to her usual self, but he was at his wits’ end.
“Umm…actually you see…umm…I washed it with all those colored clothes and umm…some of them might have thrown away their color. One of my white shirts got spoiled as well.” He blabbered apologetically.
Instead of laughing as he had expected her to, Nandita stared at Manu for some length of time, making him uncomfortable.
“I like colored kerchiefs, you know,” she said suddenly and giggled.
Ten years later at a get-together:
“Nanditaaa!” Maria squealed and gestured to her husband. “Rakesh come! Meet Nandita and Manu! Remember I told you about their story?”
Rakesh scratched his head for a moment. “The…err…”
“The white hanky story! I told you last night!”
“Oh yeah! I remember! Manu, pleased to meet you! Nandita can’t stop raving about you and how cute you guys are!”
“Pleasure is all mine!” Manu said with a smile.
He still couldn’t believe how on that fateful day when Nandita’s ex-boyfriend had left her broken and in need of a friend, he had found her. And soon, they had matured into lovers and all for what? The white kerchief, no less! He still thanked his father for teaching him since the day he entered adolescence,
A real man shares the load.
And lad, you must learn to do your own chores. Household work is a collective responsibility. And remember, no work is exclusively men’s or women’s work.”
The work had come to him easy enough. He had always seen his father doing the laundry, while mother hung up the clothes. Nandita though had found it new and surprising since her family had well-defined gender roles. Soon, the two kids fell for each other. And their love story came to be known among their friends as ‘The Story of the White Kerchief.’
I have often found myself leaning towards lionization. Lionizing events, people, life in general. I think it’s a stupid thing to do. Not all events are grand nor all parties marvelous or all times dripping with uncountable moments honeyed with joy and celebration. Days are mostly just days, untinted by sepia-toned happiness. That’s why I have decided to caption this post simply. My internship story was just such a story. Simple. Unadorned. Full of those large terms of corporate life you come to hear often. Work, productivity, deliverables…
There is always a haggle for internships especially in the second year of engineering. Everyone takes up some project, digs up some contacts, makes his/her way into some famously named corporation and so on. There is a lot of fondness for big names and bigger titles. Besides, internships are time for gyaan by seniors, frantic hunts for good projects and sweating it out at the height of summer or shivering your way to work in the depths of winter, for a taste of that which you call ‘work experience’. Sweet term, isn’t it?
But some people of my ilk preferred the sweetness of slumber to the tedium of toil and so, two summers of my B.Tech. flashed past in blissful holiday-making and vacation. But when the third year loomed large, I began to sweat. An internship had to be had this time.
As good fortune would have it (as it usually has in stories and anecdotes), one of our alumni came to the campus to get some fresh talent from our batch. They crafted a test and handed it out to all of us. As it happened, much to my surprise, out of the six students selected for internship from our batch, I was one. The only girl, to be sure. I did draw some stares that time. My peers wondered if my flukes had hit home somehow. But thankfully, for the time being, I had clinched an internship!
And therein began my two-month long chapter. We were to work at a start-up which makes Android applications keeping in mind the needs of the rural sections of the society in addition to the innovations in the industry and the like. I had till then worked only on a couple of languages like C, C++, Java. I am not much of a techie and Android was new to me. I didn’t even have an Android phone at the time. But Android I did learn. On the job as they say. We used to start working at 10 in the morning and till about 6, we hacked at codes and ran tests. I was given an app all to myself. To be honest, I was more interested in designing the user interface and the logo and even coming up with dumb one-liners to append to the app title than coding the actual thing.
Although anyone who knows me would tell you that I am no great a fan of coding, I am well-acquainted with the madness that takes hold of you when a semicolon is amiss, when everything reduces to the flashing screen before you, when your fingers talk code, when an unsuccessful execution causes your heart to sink, when a particularly stubborn code snippet causes you utter frustration, when you press F9 and experience wild joy on seeing it all execute. Those two months sealed these feelings deeper within me.
By the time we were done with our internships and had our letters in hand, I had discovered a latent love for technology somewhere in me. I have no idea whether the app I made was ever released in the market, but since then, every time I glanced at its interface, I thought it looked beautiful, much like a poem.
And if apps can be poems, can’t internships be stories as well?
I’m sharing my first internship experience for the #MyInternTheory activity at BlogAdda in association with Intern Theory.
I may have misplaced the details a bit. About who spoke what. After all, it’s hard to remember everything, but this is what roughly happened.
Pic credits: angiewindsor.blog.com
A cloud of dust hovers in front of me, preparing to settle and then rise again as another car whizzes by. I think about other clouds like these.
Bright. Iridescent. Blue. Green. Yellow.
Holi is two days away.
Five Holies ago, I was climbing out of the cocoon of high school discipline and the sheltered life therein. Eighteen years of childhood and teenage had passed me by. I was an adult now.
“Any plans tomorrow?” someone asked the class at random. Holi was a day away. Freshman year. Barely out of high school. Newbies. Nascent adults.
Some response about bringing colors. Some volunteers. Another voice came up for a Holi party. Hmm, something was happening. Cool, I thought.
The next morning, I carefully oiled my hair. And donned an old brown kurta. Just in case. Plans are always tough to execute when too many opinions are involved. And so, the Holi celebration agenda was in a haze for the time being.
When the class broke for lunch, I had realized preparation wasn’t required. There was probably going to be nothing.
“Got the colors!” Anshum, the bespectacled joker of the group announced, brandishing a pouch that looked small and suspicious.
“How many in? We are going to play right now,” Amaan declared with a tone of finality in his voice.
“Now?” Medha asked, sheet in hand. “Can’t we play after class?”
“Come on, Medha! Just one class right?” I said to her, suddenly all excited and willing to play. Medha and I were already friends by then. Arushi and Apara were yet to join our bandwagon.
“Four classes!” Parul reminded everyone, opting out of the whole idea instantly.
“Oh come on, people!” I really was all for it. I wanted to go all out this time. After all, what else is college about?
Sakhi was ambivalent about it and looked unconvinced.
“I am in, you guys decide! I can come anytime.” It was Hanima. She was the one who gave me the confidence to go ahead with the plan. “What’s ED lab compared to Holi? I can easily go if you guys are willing.”
I was glad there were a few people who could survive on a little less of study for a day.
I was wrong, though.
Friday afternoons were usually reserved for Engineering Drawing lab classes and bunking a lab is equivalent to losing the attendance of four classes. And attendance, my friends, is the most important thing in the life of a student. An engineering student, at least.
With utmost regret I have to state that the guys were all ready but it was the fairer sex that was dilly-dallying. Except me, of course. Obviously ED probably had much to do with it. Although I quite enjoy sketching and have whipped up some Madhubani paintings in my teenage, the thought of drawing a well-measured top view and lateral view gave me the jitters.
“Final call, guys!” Lucky announced, as if announcing the final boarding call for passengers. “See the loyal ones at Sutta Point in fifteen.”
The order had been delivered. Now remained the question of loyalties. Parul had left even as the annunciation was on. Arushi and Apara followed suit. Now remained us four.
“Are you guys coming?” I asked them.
All of them looked like they had been asked to choose between death by hanging or electric chair.
“Come on, please? Let’s go get a life! It’s Holi after all!”
“I will surely come, baby.” That was Hanima. Just notice the enthusiasm she displayed. And hold this thought. I will come back to her later.
“Let’s first go to the washroom,” Medha suggested. For Medha, washroom was the go-to place for everything. You could cry it out, think it over and talk it out; in short, do everything in the hallowed restroom. Going together to the restroom is a ritual we have religiously followed through the four years of our graduation.
While Medha was putting on her facial creams, my phone rang.
“Are you guys coming?” It was Praneet.
“Umm…yeah I guess.” I looked at the three girls before me, trying to gauge their reaction.
“Let’s go, baby!” Hanima said with great vigor.
Emboldened by her support and pushed on by the forces waiting outside the gate, we hurried off, with the promises that they would follow.
What happened in the next half an hour, I can’t recall very clearly. All I know is that I found myself at the Sutta Point with a bunch of guys from our class, brand new friends of mine, Karandeep leading the pack. And Hanima? Well…only the Seven Heavens knew where she had disappeared off to after escorting me out of the gate.
We took our group of sevenish people to CC (Community Centre, NFC), the Mecca of all our outings, the place which was to become our haven in the coming years. And there, beneath the shade of the huge banyan, right in front of the McDonalds outlet that was to become the touchstone of our gatherings, the celebrations began.
Anshum lunged at Shubh, coloring him all over. While Karandeep took a dig at Praneet, Lucky quickly made a call to Abhinav, gathering his forces. Battle cries were sounded and the lovebirds sitting sweetly beneath the banyan had to part as a fierce war ensued. Colors were shed and clothes ruined. I managed to get my hair dyed red and green and further red and also slapped on some colors on each of the warring factions but my motive had shifted now. I was awaiting someone else. I had only one thing on my mind. Yes, you got it right. Revenge.
It was Anshum who received the call. Yes, it was they, the traitors who had chosen to attend the lab class. We gestured to him to call them to the park. As the sounds of giggles and excited chatter grew nearer, we decided to maintain pin-drop silence. None of us uttered a word.
“Yayyyy!!!” They came running towards us with a mission, revelry etched large on their faces. We, though, sat mute. Indifferent.
“You guys! What are you sitting for?” Hanima shouted. “I thought you would be playing!”
None of us uttered a syllable. We looked around at the trees as if the leafy creatures were telling us such interesting tales that we were deaf to their speech.
“Aashi! Why isn’t anybody saying anything? What did you all do all this while?” Medha and Sakhi came up to me and began asking.
“Aashi?” Hanima ran to me.
This was the precise moment I was waiting for. The person I was waiting for. The deserter. Yes, you are right. Hanima, who had left me stranded. I had something in store for her. I didn’t say a word as she came closer. Then I looked up and signaled almost imperceptibly to Abhinav behind her.
A barrage of Coca Cola bottles were emptied on their heads and a volley of colors shot. Before they could make out anything, we were upon them. Shouts and screeches rent the air as both the armies fell on each other. Colors were daubed mercilessly on faces, arms, and most of all, hair. Clothes had never been more colorful. And I had Hanima in my grip now.
“Abhinav! Helllppp!” I screamed and he rushed in with a garden pipe helpfully lent by the caretaker of the park. We drenched her in a shower of black and grey colors, smattering her face with a fistful of gulaal.
“There!” I raised my fist in victory. But the oncoming party was already upon me. Pinning me to a nearby tree, Medha and Hanima took out a bunch of colors from God-knows-where and colored me blue, green, purple, red, black…
Meanwhile, a vicious attack was on. Sakhi was tempestuous as her tresses dripped with Coca Cola. She concocted a deadly mixture of Pepsi and silver grease that she took out of her bag. A fierce battle ensued.
And ended with a bang. And pangs. Hunger pangs. All of us, exhausted and awfully spent, traipsed to McDonalds for a burger.
The gang! Those were the days…
That day when I took an auto home, totally unrecognizable and frantic to reach before my mother dialed 100, (because my phone had had a rough day too, having been drenched and colored), I realized I had lost my drafter and my set of carefully drawn sheets to be produced in the semester practicals. I realized all this while rinsing my ears out, trying to ascertain if my hearing was still intact.
I ended up getting home, drenched, blackened, sooted, spending the next four days scrubbing my face off, draining my hair a minimum of twenty times and ending up with red, green and blue roots (no hair dye needed for a few months). The impressions left on my earlobes and underneath my fingernails told tales about our Holi exploits. I was ready to tell anyone who would listen about how I was colored and by what machination I managed to take revenge.
Yes, I lost my drafter and sheets and had to redraw those darned things again. I also missed my ED class. I had called myself a fool then. But today as I think back to my college days, to playing Holi on college streets, running around in parks being chased by disgruntled guards and restaurant owners, unleashing hosepipes on each other and devising schemes to color each and every person, come what may; I realize that I gained more than I lost. Well, memories for one. And yes, friends…
Holi does that to you. Makes friends out of classmates. Out of non-talking batchmates. It was the Holi of our first year that cemented our friendship. And created memories. Lingering memories.
I’m pledging to#KhulKeKheloHolithis year by sharing my Holi memories at BlogAddain association with Parachute Advansed. #KhulKeKheloHoli
~The True Treasures~
For all non-Bengalis, before you think I have messed up on my spellings, let me clarify – Didibhai is an endearing term for Didi or sisterin Bangla.
A luridly colored purse with flaming orange fur dangled from her shoulders as she hopped away in gay abandon.
“Didibhai…” he called after her in a squeakily cute voice. Didibhai turned.
“What will we play now?” he asked his elder sister, looking up to her with much respect and great awe.
“Come along you,” she ordered, taking his hands in hers and both the kids skittered their way to the balcony.
Didibhai loved to count her treasures and at that stage, nothing was more precious to her than her beloved tazos. Both the siblings sat down cross-legged on a mat spread out on the balcony floor spreading their treasures with much ceremony. The coin-shaped but much larger in size ‘tazos’ that used to accompany the packet of potato chips in those days of yore (as I call them now although they don’t seem so far away in reality) lay spread out ahead of them. A major reason that the inclination to buy wafers and potato chips developed in the kids those days was these tazos. Cleverly marketed by the companies, the tazos had captured the imagination of the little kids, leading to a shoot-up in their sales. While most of the tazos sported static colorful pictures, some of them glittered with twin images as well. Perfectly round, almost like coins and decorated with images of cartoon characters, the tazos were the most prized possessions and the closest to the siblings’ hearts.
“There! A lizard!” Didibhai shrieked and little Bhai’s eyes darted to where she was pointing. Her hand meanwhile had surreptitiously stolen over to his side. A tinkle sounded somewhere but before Bhai’s attention could be diverted, Didibhai repeated, “There! There! Two more lizards have come up!”
While the poor kid looked around for lizards, the sly elder sibling pocketed some of the tazos from Bhai’s side.
“Where are the lizards? I can’t see them!”
“Oh I think they vanished. You shouted too loud and scared them away,” Didibhai said, knowing full well that her word was the ultimate irrefragable truth for her little brother.
By the time he had returned to the tazo game, Didibhai’s pile of tazos was much larger than his. No prizes for guessing how the mischief was managed.
Once upon a time…
When we were younger…
Does the above narrative ring a bell? At all?
You know, it was a pity that you couldn’t count at the time. Had you been able to though, I doubt you, my dear Bhai would have countered my words even then. Such a perfect disciple you used to be! Sigh!
Those were the days! My golden days of reign! What fun I had had!
Looking back on those days, I wonder how things have transformed. Yes, I still call you Bhai, although (I guess it was quite expected!) you have dropped the salutation of Didibhai you had reserved for me then.
Do you remember how we invented games out of thin air? The days of Pokemon and Maggie Hot Wheels racing? The days of playing cricket with plastic bats and housie with plastic utensile? The days of endless Beybladeing ? (Although I later restricted myself to providing commentary as you and your pals ‘let it rip’)
I remember how we gushed at the new stationery, dividing the pens, fancy erasers, sharpeners, scissors and the like into neat piles. Those tall Shaka Laka Boom Boom pencils, egg-shaped sharpeners, huge Goldilocks and Snowwhite books… Crap…how I miss those days! The days when our biggest problems used to be taking a bath and eating meals. The days when all we needed was our colorful paraphernalia and zero interruption by ‘elders’. The days when all we feared was getting scolded by mother for messing up the room and scattering the toys. Oh how we treasured those tazos, cars, dolls, cutlery and heaven-only-knows-what-not! But I know now what the true treasures were. Moments with you, dear brother…
It had been about four weeks since they had started going to work together. Arjun would drop Jaya off at her workplace and then go to his own. Jaya had slid into her new lifestyle with a determined air. She clearly remembered how she had opposed the match the first time it had been proposed by her mother.
“I am not going to marry this man!” she had declared.
“And why, pray tell us?” her mother had countered.
“He laughs way too much. And unnecessarily. He is much too gregarious.” Jaya had complained.
“Oh good lord! Your father didn’t so much as smile at the best of jokes! He didn’t have any sense of conversation. Did I just reject him then?” her mother had shouted. “Here you have a well-to-do man, who is amiable and friendly, looks great and you have a problem with his smile??”
“If she doesn’t want to marry, why are you forcing her?” her father had said in her support.
“It is not about marriage, it is about her high-brow attitude! Who does she think she is? Queen Victoria??” her mother had reached her temper. “She has rejected men outright without even meeting them once! And I wouldn’t have cared had she brought a man of her own. But no! This girl lives in a world of her own! She wants to die an old maid!”
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT? IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KEEP ME, THEN I WILL GO AND LIVE ON MY OWN, GET IT?” Jaya had screamed.
Her mother’s face had gone red, her voice dangerously quiet.
“You do it for their benefit and they shout back at you. This is how today’s children repay their parents.”
Then her eyes had suddenly shone as she came up with a new argument.
“Mark my words!” she had looked at her husband. “This girl cannot live with anyone! She is a loner! A stuck-up old fool! A complete fool to reject a perfect man like Arjun! I don’t think she even deserves him!”
That had touched a nerve in Jaya. Before her father could handle the situation, she had blurted out, “You think I don’t deserve him?! You think I can’t live with a man? Let me give him a chance as you say. I will marry him. If he is able to win me over in three months, then great. Else the burden of a failed marriage would lie on you.”
And that’s how Arjun and Jaya had been married two months ago.
Today, however their travel routine had to change. There was some new scheme about ‘odd-even’ doing the rounds. Apparently, odd numbered vehicles could ply on odd days and even-numbered on even. However, women had been exempted from this rule.
And so the second weekday of the year saw her at the wheel. Arjun stood outside, his smiling face framed against the window of the passenger seat.
“See you in the evening,” he waved and began to walk away.
Jaya put the car into gear and started the engine. Very soon, she had crossed the street and the bus-stop. She saw Arjun standing there. He waved. She smiled back curtly.
Should she ask him to take a cab or something? No need. He was a grown man. He knew what to do. And it was no fault of hers that he had to take the public transport. Blame the government. She had no business feeling sympathetic for him.
Tuesday promised to be a normal day. Arjun was at the wheel again and Jaya sat beside him. Despite herself, she felt a little less guilty today. After all, yesterday, the poor guy had to be jostled to and fro in the buses. Today, he could go as usual.
“What are you thinking?” Arjun asked her, noticing her creased brow.
“Nothing,” she said, putting on her polite mask again.
A week passed and Arjun saw Jaya off at the car again.
“Drive safe. Take care.”
His words seemed to have unseated her. She felt a little uncomfortable.
“Ye–es.” she said.
He started walking away and she quickly blurted out, “You take care too! And tell me when you reach.”
Arjun looked at her, pleasantly surprised. “Yes, yes, I sure will.” he said and waved to her.
On Friday, Arjun left a little early since he wanted to try a new route.
When Jaya got to her office, she wondered whether Arjun had reached. He had taken the metro that day.
As if he had read her thoughts, her phone rang.
“Hello!” she queried into the phone, her heart beating strangely.
“When did you reach?” Arjun’s voice filled her ears.
“A while ago,” she replied.
“You?” she was quick to ask.
“Just. I thought of calling you because there wasn’t much petrol in the car. Did you stop at a gas station?”
“I think you should get the tank filled on your way back. Just in case.”
Arjun had a habit of taking her out every Sunday to a new restaurant. When they went this time, Jaya decided to wear the black suit she had worn on Friday. Arjun hadn’t seen this one. He had left for office early that day and she had reached home before him.
They were at the traffic signal, waiting for it to turn green. It turned green thrice and went back to red.
“Phew! Are we never going to get there?” Arjun wondered aloud.
Jaya looked around them. The cars were kissing each other’s sides and whatever space was left had been claimed by bikes.
“I think you should plan outings on weekdays now,” she said.
“Would you like to have this?” he pointed towards the golgappastall.
Much to her own surprise, Jaya giggled at the inanity of the suggestion.
“You know it would be felo de se for me to have a) stuff whipped up from the street grime b) something that would directly hit our throats in the chilly winter.”
“A felo de se! Hmm I see…You dying for my sake? I must be the luckiest man on earth!” he grinned.
Something in his smile caught at her heart. She was surprised to feel a thrill run down her spine and more so, when she gladly acquiesced to his outrageous suggestion.
“All right! Let’s go your way this time, you nutter!” she said in a tone lighter than Arjun had ever heard her use. It brought a warmth to his heart and made him jump, pop-eyed at her #peppy demeanour.
“Are you sure?” he asked, a trifle doubtful.
“Well, do I really have a choice with this hopeless traffic?”
A few minutes later, when they plopped the crunchy balls full of masala-laced stuffing and spicy water into their mouths, Jaya wincing at the spice spreading its effects all over her throat and Arjun looking adoringly at her, he knew that finally, something had struck home.
“You know, we could let the car be and actually help the cause of reducing pollution.” Jaya said the night before the fourteenth.
“Don’t be idealistic. I don’t want you to face the dust and grime. Not another felo de se! Thank you very much!” he joked.
Looking at her face, framed by tendrils of black hair falling over her forehead, he had an irresistible urge to take her in his arms and express all he had felt for her since the time he had seen her at her house. It had been love at first sight. He was just relieved that she had accepted him. But however much he felt for her, he knew she was different. She did not like him as much. Something separated them. Now however, he felt it coming loose. Things had finally started to fall into place. It was just very recently that she had started being herself and he could see chinks of her true self shine forth from her armour of pride. He had promised to wait as long as it would take for her to get comfortable, to feel at home with him.
Jaya had a feeling that Arjun wouldn’t let her take the metro when there was a car and she was even more astonished to realize that she wanted to accompany him at least on the last day of this bizarre scheme that had wrought such changes in her and made her feel things she had not felt before.
The next morning, when she had dressed and was readying herself to leave, she made sure the keys were safely in her drawer. When they reached the car park, Arjun turned to wave her off.
“Oh! I forgot the keys!” Jaya said dramatically, half smiling to herself.
Arjun looked at her, a twinkle in his eyes, “You know you are a bad actor. Don’t even try. Why are you suddenly all bhartiya naari types? Wanting to partake of your husband’s joys and sorrows?” he asked, a laugh in his voice.
“I want to test you, mister. Whether you are capable of taking care of me or not. Whether you are fulfilling your vows or not.”
Something gripped Arjun and he couldn’t help pulling Jaya to himself.
“Testing me, are you?” he quizzed her, his hands around her waist.
“We are at the society carpark, dear husband. Aren’t you forgetting your place?” she asked, her open voice #peppy, giggling and pleasantly inviting.
“You are such a temptress! Forgive me madame! Your charms have made me forget my place!”
At the metro, they stood like college lovers, leaning against the barrier separating the women’s coach from the general one, talking to each other over the bobbing heads of chattering boys and girls.
The disembodied voice announced the approaching metro station.
“Goodbye for now.” Jaya said to Arjun with a smile. The train halted and there was a commotion. But Arjun didn’t move.
“What?” Jaya asked incredulously.
“Let me drop you off first,” he said.
“Don’t be silly.”
But he didn’t move.
“You are such a total nut.” Jaya said, laughing.
“You know what, don’t go.” he suddenly said.
The next station had arrived.
“Have you been to ‘The Garden of Five Senses’?” he asked her as the train began moving again.
“Umm no,” Jaya said, wondering what he was getting at.
“Then let’s go see it.”
“You are out of your mind.” she said, staring at him.
“Oh! Come on! A single day won’t wreck your career! Let’s go, seriously, it will be great.”
Half of him knew that she wasn’t one of those who took on-the-spot decisions or was game for anything and everything, throwing caution to the winds. But the other half wanted to try his luck. Especially now when she had opened up and was willing to extend her hand for friendship.
“And what will you say at work?” Jaya asked softly.
“I will say it’s Cupid calling. Sorry no can do!” he winked.
A spark that had been flickering within her since the past few weeks had now grown into a full-fledged fire. When she allowed Arjun to take her arm and they made their way out of the metro together, she knew something had changed within her. She knew things would never be the same again.
That weekend, they visited many other places that he had wanted her to see, places she always delegated as ‘couple’ places.
“I really can’t believe I am one of those people,” she said while snuggling into him. “Those mawkishly sentimental people who go to mushy places and put up icky selfies.”
But as the weekend drew to a close, she found herself updating her profile picture- a snap of the two of them sharing a chocolate.
So soppy. So sugary. But weirdly she found herself loving it. Whether the odd-even trial had any #impact, she couldn’t say, but the trial she had put Arjun on had stood the test of time.